Middle East & North Africa

Gaza sea corridor is an imperialist placebo

20 March 2024

By Martin Suchanek

The famine caused by Israel’s blockade on Gaza has reached such proportions that Israel’s allies have been forced to acknowledge the catastrophe.

The Israeli army has killed more than 30,000 people since October and virtually the entire population of Gaza have become internally displaced refugees within what the EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell has called an ‘open air graveyard’.

More than half a million people are now directly threatened by starvation, according to the UN. The situation is worst in the north of Gaza, under the direct control of the IDF. With children most at risk, premature babies are already starting to die from malnutrition. Lack of water and sanitation are accelerating the impact of disease on people weakened by hunger.  

Even before the war, half of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants were dependent on food aid. Vast quantities of aid are waiting on the Israeli and Egyptian sides of the border. But of the 500 lorries of food per day needed, only a fraction are permitted to enter by Israel—a daily average of just 83 in February. Several aid convoys have been attacked by Israeli forces, with dozens of Palestinians killed.

Humanitarian phrases

Israeli government ministers agitate openly of the expulsion of the Palestinian population. After five months of war, the right-wing extremist wing feels that its goal—the ethnic cleansing of Gaza—is close at hand.

That starvation is being used as a weapon of war, a war crime, is beyond doubt. To take just one example: the former head of Israel’s National Security Council, Giora Eland, declared ‘if the Palestinians really need urgent humanitarian aid, then they must be told: If they want to eat, they must put pressure on their government to enter into a hostage deal.’

Israel’s allies are increasingly aware that its shameless trampling of international law, which stipulates the obligation of an occupying power to provide civilians with food and shelter, could cause the war’s fragile façade of ‘self-defence’ to collapse completely.

The West, which solemnly invokes its respect for ‘international law’ when it is violated by its rivals, like Putin, recognises that its ‘unconditional support’ for Israel risks its ‘democratic’ credentials being exposed as a hypocritical fraud.  

That is what explains the sudden outburst of humanitarian concern by Israel’s key allies, who have called with varying degrees of force for ‘humanitarian pauses’, for the border crossings to be opened, and even, in the case of Chuck Schumer, denounced Netanyahu as ‘an obstacle to peace’.

But these appeals to for Israel to consider the impact of its actions on its credibility—let alone that of its allies—are just empty phrases.

Confident that the United States, UK, and EU states will continue to provide Israel with unconditional military, economic and diplomatic support, Netanyahu has been able to reject out of hand his allies’ appeals to permit the entry of aid across Israel’s land borders, to agree a ‘humanitarian ceasefire’, and to abandon his planned assault on Rafah.  

He has based his calculation on two factors: first, that Israel’s role as the indispensable outpost of the western imperialist order in the Middle East means they will not abandon it for the sake of the Palestinians. Secondly, and crucially, that this will remain the case for so long as the Arab dictatorships confine themselves to symbolic protests, and the global solidarity movement is not powerful enough to force the United States to bring its Zionist gendarme to heel.

Cynical manoeuvre

Caught between their unconditional support for Israel and the charge that they are abetting the starvation of tens of thousands of people, the western leaders have conjured up a way of having their cake and eating it. Israel will be permitted to continue its siege in defiance of international law—and the west will organise food deliveries by air and sea to shield Israel from international condemnation.

The USA, France and Jordan began military airdrops of food over the war zone in early March, joined by other states including Germany in recent days. On 16 March, the first seaborne shipment was unloaded via a makeshift jetty. Israel’s destruction of the territory’s entire port infrastructure means it is impossible to deliver meaningful quantities of aid by sea. The planned construction of a ‘floating harbour’ will not change this.

While sufficient aid is waiting at every land crossing, for distribution by aid agencies with the necessary logistical capabilities, these methods can only deliver a fraction of the necessary aid, and cannot ensure it goes to those most in need. This pseudo-aid campaign is nothing more than a placebo designed to assuage popular outrage—a humanitarian cover for Israel’s genocidal starvation campaign.  

We do not need such pseudo-aid. Instead, the impending famine and Israel’s genocidal attack must be stopped now.

The implementation of these immediate demands, which are themselves still far from bringing a lasting and just peace, would at least be a step towards stopping the mass starvation of civilians and the ethnic cleansing of Gaza.

Working class action

But this now requires a serious escalation of the solidarity movement. In the Arab states the working class and popular masses must demand the breaking of all relations with Israel. The Egyptian working class has the greatest power to immediately shift the balance of forces by closing the Suez canal, one of the principal arteries of profit fuelling the imperialist system.

The western trade union movement which has committed itself to the cause of Palestinian solidarity must now move from words to action. In those trade unions, which continue to support the Western policy of ‘unconditional solidarity’ with Israel, all internationalist, class-struggle forces must fight together and in an organised manner for a break with this social-chauvinist policy.

The working class in the countries that supply Israel with arms and diplomatic protection has a special duty to act. This is not just Israel’s war. It is a colonial war that is also being waged with the participation of several Western imperialist powers. An Israeli victory also strengthens the position of Western imperialism and thus its ruling classes. Therefore, the Palestinian struggle is also in the interest of the entire international working class.

We must redouble our efforts to fight for internationalist actions of the working class to end the war and accelerate the overthrow of the entire imperialist-backed order in the Middle East, with the aim of dismantling the Zionist state, establishing a binational democratic, secular and socialist state in all of Palestine as part of a socialist revolution in the Middle East.


Class struggle bulletin

Stay up to date with our weekly newsletter